What’s wrong with Dave Winer

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.

Dave Winer: Something nice this time

As anyone who has read this blog for awhile probably knows, I have been hard on Dave Winer occasionally (and I think with good reason, but I don’t want to get into that right now).

The fact remains, however, that Dave is a pretty smart guy when it comes to things like RSS — let’s not get into whether he “invented” it or not — and he also thinks outside the box when it comes to things like how newspapers and other media present their content, and that is something I’m interested in as well. So I think it’s only fair that I point out when I think he’s doing something interesting.

The thing in this case is his New York Times keyword index. It’s a simple thing, in a lot of ways, since it just scans the newspaper’s index and comes up with the number of times a certain word is used, then ranks them from top to bottom — but it also has a couple of additional features, including the fact that it displays the headline of a story when you hover over the number.

That’s a nice touch. And it’s an interesting companion to Dave’s “river of news” NYT feed (something I tried to recreate with my Twitter feed of Globe and Mail headlines).

I don’t understand why the Times — or other newspapers, for that matter — don’t provide that kind of alternative search or browsing tool themselves. It’s not rocket science (no offence, Dave) and it might even attract users who don’t want to use the linear approach that most papers default to. Why not have a keyword tag cloud too? The Washington Post had a demo of such a feature awhile back as part of its Post Remix lab project, but it never became part of the actual site, which I think is a shame.

I think plenty of readers would be interested in alternative ways of finding stories, just as they now use features such as the “most read” and “most emailed” lists the Times and other papers have. Why not add even more ways of slicing and dicing the news?

Facebook: Dave Winer brings the hate

In a recent post — entitled “Why Facebook sucks” — Dave Winer slams the social network for being too closed, and for “getting in between me and my address book,” as he puts it. Not surprisingly, this has sparked a series of posts, including one from Randy Holloway entitled (you had to know this was coming) “Why Dave Winer sucks.” Stowe Boyd took issue with Dave’s comments — in what I thought was a fairly reasonable manner — only to have Dave post via twitter (I refuse to say he “tweeted” or whatever I’m supposed to say) that Stowe was “a creep” and “an idiot.”

As usual, Dave has managed to turn something that could have been a worthwhile discussion about concepts and ideas into something personal. Why? Who knows. It’s just something he does. Not that long ago, he did it with Jason Calacanis, and he has done it with numerous others. It reminds me of the old story about the scorpion convincing the frog to carry him across the pond, and then stinging him at the last minute, causing them both to drown. And when the frog asks why, the scorpion says: “I couldn’t help it — it’s my nature.”

Steve is right to use a pic of kids playing in a sandbox to illustrate his post about the whole affair. As for Dave’s complaints, it’s all well and good to talk about Facebook as a roach motel or a closed system or the new AOL or whatever (something I’ve expressed doubts about in the past), but as Brandon and Stowe himself have pointed out, address book data isn’t trapped as Dave makes it out to be, thanks to Facebook’s API. Nice try, Dave.

Will the real Dave Winer please stand up?

So Dave Winer thinks Techmeme has become a “cesspool,” as he puts it. Why? He says it’s because of the Techmeme leaderboard, and how it’s encouraging people to say all kinds of things in an attempt to game the system. But I think Dave is just pissed that a certain person he doesn’t name — but whose name rhymes with Mason Balacanis — was topping the site for much of the day.

Dave can’t even bring himself to mention J-Dawg’s name, calling him an “idiot who says idiotic things to get attention,” a reference that I assume goes back to Dave’s little contretemps with JC at a conference awhile back. The ironic thing is that by doing that, Dave himself engaged in exactly the same thing he claims to abhor — and got some nice Techmeme juice out of it to boot.


Mike says that Dave is using tinyURL in his post when he links to Jason, to prevent JC from getting any link juice. I guess that’s pettiness 2.0 (In a comment below, Dave denies that this was his intention). And Scott Karp has some tips for Gabe on how to prevent people from “gaming” Techmeme to rise up the leaderboard. But Scott, that would ruin all our fun 🙂

Days of Our Lives, the blogosphere edition

I guess it wouldn’t be a weekend without some kind of pissing match or emotional upheaval in the schoolyard blogosphere, and the current candidate is a high-profile sparring exercise involving Jason “Mahalo” Calacanis and Dave “I invented RSS” Winer.

In a nutshell, Jason got up at Chris Pirillo’s Gnomedex conference and talked a lot about Mahalo.com, his “people-powered search” startup. No surprise there — Jason is a promoter’s promoter.But some people took offence at the promotional flavour of his remarks, including Dave (although Dave has pointed out that he wasn’t the only one, and Wired notes that Chris Pirillo himself made similar comments on Twitter).

If you want to catch up, there’s Jason’s response to Dave on his blog and Dave’s initial response and follow-up. Stowe Boyd has some thoughts about how Dave tends to be a loose cannon at conferences, as Blake Ross (ex of Firefox) and others can probably attest.

As I know from personal experience, Dave is notoriously thin-skinned — kind of surprising for a guy who has been blogging since most of us were in kindergarten, but still a fact. He even takes Steve Hodson to task at Winextra for describing his remarks at Gnomedex as being “pissy.” Robert Seidman, meanwhile, goes with the term “chucklehead.”

Dave maintains that his comments were all about how Mahalo isn’t a platform that developers can work with, and seems upset that everyone focuses on the tone of his remarks instead of the substance. But there’s an easy solution to that: don’t be so pissy about it in the first place.


As always, my mesh friend Loren Feldman at 1938media has a way of putting everything into perspective with his Gnomedex Thoughts video (thanks to Allen of Centernetworks for the link). And it seems that Jason and Dave have made up, according to a Twitter post — I refuse to call them “tweets” — from Jason, in which he said: “Accepted Dave… and as always I respect your ideas greatly and am always open to hearing how you think any product can be better. “

Dave has apologized (at least sort of) here, but in true Wineresque fashion, he apparently couldn’t let things rest and so has posted a number of suggestions for Jason on how he could apologize as well. Classic. Still can’t get enough of this topic? There’s more at Wired’s Epicenter blog.