Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

scriptingNews outline for 10/1/2000

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:10/1/2000; 6:18:13 AM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 10/1/2000
Msg #:21858
Prev/Next:21857 / 21859

Dear Susan, congratulations on shipping your Bryce Book!

Today is my Jamaican Uncle's 55th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Vava. Hey, it's Jake's birthday too (#31).

It's a happy day when there's a new Bryan Bell theme.

CNET user comments on Vignette StoryServer.

A skillful rant from Evan Williams on why popularity matters.

FYI, we have rankings according to hits for UserLand-hosted Manila sites, an all-time list, and yesterday's rankings.

BTW, there was a lot more stuff here this morning, but I took it offline, it's turning into the next DaveNet piece. Planning to send it out tomorrow morning, primetime.

Look at the functionality 

I'm still puzzled by Jakob Nielsen's last AlertBox, and also by his response to Evan William's critique. It's also being discussed in this thread on Metafilter.

My two cents. Cut through all the confusion about what weblogs are, and focus on the functionality of the software, then it gets simple. What does the software do for you and how does it work, how accessible is it, and does it give you control? Does it grow when your needs grow?

I wasn't there when word processing became a market, so I don't know if they had these kinds of debates. Perhaps word processing software was not considered useful because some people used word processors to write love letters or other writing that people thought was trivial or insignificant or hard to read.

I agree with Jakob about Tomalak and Doc Searls' site. Radically different approaches, and both provide a useful service, and both use roughly the same technology, as do other sites with perhaps less interesting content.

(It'll be interesting to see if Tomalak, which has a tradition of being non-self-referential, will point to this discussion in its various locations. Resolved: He pointed to the Nielsen article and the Metafilter thread.)

So, to Jakob, we need a name for the category of software we make. If Manila is to be considered useful in the context of writing on the Web, what features should we add (or take out, harder to do because of the installed base), and what should we call the category? This might be a place where you can make a contribution to defining what we do, and perhaps we could create software you and your readers would find more useful.

Jakob's response 

"I am all in favor of simplified tools like Manila. After all, the less brainpower users have to expend on the tool, the more cognitive resources they can devote to thinking about the content. However, I do not think that simplifying the mechanics of creating content will be sufficient to solve the problem I was discussing in my Alertbox. Word processors are a great analogy: the best available human factors studies indicate that people do not write any better in a word processor than when they draft their text by hand and have a secretary type it up. You save the cost of the secretary, that's all.

"In reading some of the commentary you pointed to, I was amazed that some people thought I was advocating teaching little kids raw HTML. When I say 'teach to write hypertext', I was referring to a deeper understanding of the term than simply the current implementation. The first hypertext systems were implemented in 1967 (my own work in the hypertext field started in 1984, so I am a relative late-comer. The best hypertext systems were built around 1985-1987. I am assuming that the Web will reach that level in another five years."

I asked him to explain. "I am thinking of systems like Intermedia (from Brown University), KMS (from a small independent software vendor), and NoteCards (Xeorx PARC). I don't think any of them are available any more (after all, they ran on proprietary platforms and only worked on LANs, not the Internet). All of these and many more are summarized in my book Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond (published 1995 - the book is basically a summary of the first 50 years of hypertext research, 1945-1995)."

Stan's response to Jakob 

Stan Krute: "Word processors let me tweak and hone and organize in ways quite impractical via some draft-secretary process."

I agree. My experience using writing tools is that I get to endlessly tweak and refine, and the writing gets better for all the tweaking.

And that's my reason for making tools to support writers. That people use them for other purposes is fine. I'm not going to read every post of a sixth-grade class, but their parents might. There's value in all kinds of writing, not just the best writing.

And all writers need tools.

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