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Thread started by Dave Winer on Tuesday, November 20, 2012.

How to help the open web

The last couple of blog posts were about the open web. Both have gotten some great responses.

An aside, one reason the comments might be more lively is that I went to Fred Wilson's blog and noted that his Disqus threads were much longer and easier to read than mine. I went to the setup page for Disqus and found some prefs I didn't know were there, and found an ability to add styles to their CSS, and voila -- much nicer!

In a comment on the first post, Kristopher Nelson, a PhD student and former software dev, said he didn't disagree with my points, but had trouble turning them into practical actions he can actually do, instead of relying on "installed leaders" to kick it of for him (paraphrasing).

He's right! I said what the problems are, but I didn't offer ways to help. This is equally important. So here's a list of things you can do to help.

1. Don't write mini-essays in Twitter. Instead fully express your idea on your blog and post a link to Twitter. That's the single most constructive thing people can do.

A picture named lego.gif2. If you absolutely can't respond in a post, then respond in a comment. 140 character posts are very often impossible to parse. And are hard to respond to if my answer requires more than 140. That's why I don't do support on Twitter. I think it's impossible. And tweets have limited utility after they scroll off. Comments create a somewhat better record. And instead of concentrating everything on one company's servers, we can spread them around a little.

That said, don't see this rule as requiring you to be long-winded. You still want to get to the point quickly so people read what you're saying. People are very busy these days, so you want to say what you have to say as quickly as possible. And if you have a blogging tool that supports collapsable text like mine, use it to add detail in a way that's optional for the reader.

3. For the installed leaders -- run a river of the blogs you read, and share it with your readers. Link to it prominently from your home page. Talk about it in posts. Get people to read more than just your blog.

Someone asked for an example of a river. Here you go.

A river is the next thing after a blogroll.

A blogroll just has pointers to blogs. A river includes their stories.

It's a way of defining a community. It's one of those wonderful things that empowers the river-owner and the people whose content flows through the river.

Someday not only will every publication have a river, but they will be defined by their river.

We need to get one editorial organization to do it and do it right.

BTW, people note that my river is mostly mainstream pubs. That's because bloggers are publishing so little these days. I subscribe to lots of blogs. But they aren't updating. Let's fix that!

4. Also do the thing that the "big boys" do so well -- reference each other. If I write something that you find interesting, write a blog post about it, and link to my post.

5. Don't wait for a press release to write about something that's new. I find it amazing sometimes all the new stuff I've shipped on Scripting News, whci now is a fairly radical-looking blog with at least a few never-seen-before features, yet, as far as I know -- no one has written about them. Why? They say that news is just regurgitated press releases. This seems to confirm it.

6. Fight conventional wisdom. One of the reasons blogs started in the first place was to fight the CW that there was no new Mac software. All the reporters knew this wasn't true, but they reported the CW that there wasn't. Reporters still do this. So let's route around that. The great Scoop Nisker said -- If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own. A very wise man. :-)

7. Share your ideas and observations. Start new threads that aren't responsive to anyone else. If you have an epiphany or see something you don't think anyone else has seen -- that's a blog post. Write it up!

8. If you're a developer, hook your favorite tweet-like system up to RSS, both ways. I want to be able to hook my linkblog feed up to everything. This is how we bootstrap a network of compatible twitter-like systems. Use an existing standard that's good enough to hook everything up to everything. This way we can have competiing visions for how this stuff works, and still have content flow easily across systems.

One more motto, a variant of something President Kennedy said. Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet. These days so many people look to the Internet to make them rich or famous or powerful. So much so that the poor Internet is exhausted from all those people taking from it. Think about what you can put back that may not help just you, that may help the Internet itself. It's important.

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