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Dave Winer’s book, revisited

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I am still thinking about Dave Winer’s book, even though it’s none of my business. I wonder if there are models that suit a serious blogger’s writing methods and style to be discovered in the field of natural history. Chapters with small sub-chapters in a loose progression and grouped somewhat informally, each one focusing on one or two examples or anecdotes and a concept. In other words, not so different from blog posts but accumulating in a way that adds focus and energy. A little different energy from the blog because it does strive to be a book with a single focus and many related subtopics.

Why natural history? Because that field* works in part by accumulation of observations, I believe, as does blogging.

Some parts of DW’s written work fit natural history very well. Imagine 15 short entries about the life cycle of a tech project, say. A few entries about the early stages, a few about the relationship of the tech innovation to the marketplace and to users, a few about the maturation and old age of a tech innovation, a few about the natural enemies of tech innovation, one or two about the wider ecology that supports this innovation, one or two about what the innovation does to the wider social and economic ecology, etc. I know that DW has written about most of these things already or spoken about them in podcasts. Pull those already existing pieces out, arrange them in a progression, and see what examples and what parts of the life cycle of a tech innovation still need to be added to the story. You have a chapter or more underway.

Or take a post from last week, when DW said this:

On the net, your feed is you.

The links you push through this tool will be rendered in many different contexts. That’s why the way you render it is not important. The point of the tool is to connect your linkflow with all the places you might want your links to flow. That’s the reality in 2011, and any blogging tool must take this into account.

Today there are: feeds, rivers and renderers.

This all but sets out the organization for a progression of sub-sections of a chapter, written not so differently than blog entries, based on observations of the nature of the three creatures: feeds, rivers, and renderers. Maybe some of the sub-sections might address these parts of the wider topic:

Things meant to be read by humans. Things meant to be read by machines. Feeds as a hybrid of the two.

Feeds you own. When somebody else owns your feed. When you own your feed. To what degree you can really own your feed. Political implications of feed ownership. Economic implications of feed ownership. Social implications.

How machines read feeds and render them for human eyes. The important differences between various renderers and where they reside. Who creates and who owns the renderers? Why it matters.

Rivers. How they differ from other websites. What they require. What they offer. Why they matter.

Implicit in so much of DW’s work and in these topics is a question: What is the real creative opportunity of the web? [Though he is a technologist, DW plainly sees this as a blend of technological and social creativity.] Where and how is it misunderstood? Where and how is it threatened? How can it be protected? How can we take part in its best opportunities? There should be a chapter that directly discusses these things, but DW would probably not be able to discuss feeds and rivers and other topics without revealing this wider philosophy along the way, too.


*”Traditional natural history, deriving from Pliny the Elder and Dioscorides, had flourished in the late Renaissance. It involved the mapping of nature through the classification of plants and animals and the assembling of information about their uses and habits. This traditional natural history continued throughout the 17th century and reached its zenith in the 18th century in the work of the likes of Carl Linnaeus.” (Peter Anstey)

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