My longtime friend Doc Searls and an outliner guy going back many years is now using the OPML Editor and has started to post items to the OPML Comments community.
Small pieces loosely joined. It's the philosophy of Unix from the 70s, the PC world of the 80s, the Mac of the mid-late 80s and early 90s, the web and open source communities of the 90s, and the beginnings of Web 2.0 -- blogging, podcasting, RSS.
It's a good moment, because Doc has wicked way of writing about this stuff. His stories are very different from mine. He goes deep on photography, radio, geography, airplanes. But when it comes to formats and protocols, we are on exactly the same page. He's on the odd-numbered side, and I'm on the even-numbered one. But it's the same idea, flip sides.
It's a good time to write this story, because the very people that Twitter is pushing out the nest are the ones we want to work with. There will be competition for their hearts and minds. Evan and Biz are launching Medium. One of their colleagues is launching Branch. app.net is out there. There will be lots of new communities vying for the attention for the most creative and intelligent people on the web.
By actively participating, I hope to nudge all the new bootstrappers to share data with each other. So the users can not only delight in the experiences each of our software can create, but also in the magic they can create by combining our tools to create new online communities that the software architects would never imagine.
My belief is that if the right design, programming and writing tools are out there, and we foster easy movement of ideas, the amazing things we could only dream of in the past will come into existence. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world now whose minds share the space of the Internet. It can get a lot richer. They're ready for it.
Anyway, this is an invitation to Doc to post a response below, in the outline that's attached to my post. I would like to read a Doc ramble on these topics. It would be good for my soul. Then I will show you another way of looking at what Doc wrote.
Update: Doc posted a comment. And it appears on its own page, where you can comment on his comment.
The history of personal computing is one of growing personal power and independence and of our ability to work and play together, in ways we create. That's what's happening here, and it's happening outside the silos that are so easy for developers, large and small, to create and get stuck with.
It's easy to forget how ironic the name "IBM PC" was in 1982. "Personal Computer" to business was as oxymoronic as "personal high-rise." IBM was known for making big computers for big enterprises: the computing equivalent of high-rises. But once it was clear that much more could be done with computing if people did it, IBM got in front of the inevitable, and computing became a personal thing. This was a genie that would never go back in the bottle.
The same thing happened with the Internet in 1995, with the first graphical browers, the market for domain names anybody could buy, ISPs and Web servers. The ability to connect instantly with anybody or anything in the world, at a cost that rounds to zero, was another genie that wouldn't go back in the bottle, no matter how much phone companies want to bill us for "roaming" or whatever. That kind of strategy is short-term and doomed, because will prove bad for business. Personal agency has been loosed in the world, and will inevitably produce better societies and economies.
It helps to remember that the Net is not a single system, but rather a bunch of protocols manners among computers and software that (in effect) nobody owns, everybody can use and anybody can improve. Those protocols exist outside any company's or government's ambitions toward enclosure.
All the inventions we are working with here, on these threads users and developers, digging together, as Dave says expand on the native capacities of personal computing and communication which are guaranteed by the Net's founding technologies and protocols. They also expand on certain native imperatives of civilization; especially the ability to write, publish and share.
I picked up the first hints of this from Dave when I met him at Comdex Spring 1983 in Atlanta, where he was showing off an early version of ThinkTank, the original outliner for Apple II and IBM PC. After a few minutes of conversation with Dave I realized that ThinkTank was an ideal tool for thinking and writing. Our little company in North Carolina couldn't afford a PC at the time, so all I coud do was wait.
The next year we bought one of the first 128k Macs sold in North Carolina, grew steadily, and opened an office in Palo Alto. Within three years we closed North Carolina and became one of the hot advertising, marketing and PR agencies in the Valley. I credit much of that success (for me, at least) to MORE, which by then had become my working and thinking environment, as well as the tool I used to write the agency's copy and pretty much everything else. (It exported to Word and many other formats, which was handy.)
My expertise with MORE helped us land the Symantec account, not long after Symantec bought Dave's company, Living Videotext, and MORE along with it. Not long after that, Dave founded UserLand Software, which became the birthplace of many ground-making developments, including RSS and OPML, which I'm writing with today. It was after he started Userland that I came to know Dave as a both a friend and an author of new developments that would make the world. As a user of his stuff, and an interactive beneficiary of it, I've been a collaborator as well.
And now Dave is leading the charge outside a box we've been stuck in since 1995. Think of the box as one with browsers on one side, servers on the second side, search engines on the third side, "social media" on the fourth side, phone and cable companies on the bottom and nothing on top, above which as we put it in Cluetrain "the sky is open to the stars."
Dave has never lived inside that box. He's always been good at making use of what's there, and even hot new buzztrends like Web 2.0, without buying in to the BS that's always in the noise around anything new, hot, or normal for way too long. Unusual for a developer, Dave is also interested in giving users new tools that will help them grow and become more human and less systematized (which is nearly always what technical systems tend to do). He wants us to be independent, and fully capable of operating on our own. I love that.
Stop for a minute and think about BMW ads for "the ultimate driving machine." Now think about how such a thing, for any of us, would not fit inside the box I described two paragraphs up.
Outlining is driving. It gives us a way to assert our agency in the world. In today's online world we are being acted upon far too much and acting independently with full agency far too little. We need new and better tools that operate outside the old box. We need ultimate driving machines. I believe this is what we are helping Dave and his colleagues bootstrap here.
Question: If I click on the permalink to open Doc's comment, it seems like I should be able to read the comments that branch off his comment, from that page. Are you planning to implement something along these lines?
Doc, thanks for accepting the invitation to blog with the outliner.
BTW, this is where the OPML source is for your comment. You could link that into any OPML-aware app, and it would render it in-place as if you wrote it there. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no such places. That's what this bootstrap is going to change, and I really hope you sign on to be a leader of the crusade. It won't take much to turn it into something real. But it will take patience. You and I have been around long enough to know how to do that. :-)
1. That OPML has to be in space you control, not space I control.
2. The URL needs to be easy to discover.
3. We need to be able to identify it as having come from you.
Luckily none of these problems are very challenging. Just needs to be a step-by-step process with real users such as yourself.
Thanks again! :-)
This is awesome if it works.