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Dave Winer: The Original Blogger, who’s often wrong, but always real

Dave Winer: The Original Blogger, who’s often wrong, but always real

Like him, love him, or hate him, you have to admit that Dave Winer is as real as a blogger gets.

I mean – right there on his sidebar biography is this little gem:

Dave Winer, 52, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software

I first became aware of Dave back in the days of Radio Userland when I first started blogging using his software.

I was living in Boston at the time and Dave wound up at the Berkman Center a few years later as a fellow – and launched the BloggerCon conferences. I attended Bloggercon 2004 and met Dave in person for the first time.

Now meeting someone in person is alot different than reading their blog – and I’m a pretty perceptive fellow. I quickly realized that Dave was pretty different when you’re up close and personal with him… different in that I realized that the guy was pretty much a cantankerous guy all of the time.

I looked at him differently after that day – he didn’t lose my respect – I just thought of him differently after that.

But the thing I always admired about Dave is that he just kept it real – right or wrong, he was going to have his say, and that’s that.

So when I read his post yesterday entitled What does an algorithm think?, I figured that this would wind up being classic Dave – and it is.

Only a programmer should write about technology, says Dave

Most of the authors don’t know the first thing about technology, never took a computer science class, have never written code, and don’t admit that understanding tech is a prerequisite for writing about it.

Well, ok.

By the same standard, I could probably argue that Dave’s constant political posts shouldn’t be written by him since he doesn’t really know anything about politics – but who’s throwing stones here?

This argument just doesn’t hold water to me. Yes, you must understand technology in order to write about it – but you certainly don’t have to be able to write the damn code in order to understand technology.

A personal example

I have an incredibly bright young woman who works with me on a client project at the moment. It’s a $3m software development project and she is managing the business portion of the project. In other words, she owns the business strategy (requirements, project definition, and so on). She knows next to nothing about how the algorithms actually work that make the software do what it does.

But she knows more about the strategy and the application of that technology than any of the 12 IT folks that are working on the project right now.

If I had to pick one person from the project team (other than me) to go present to the company’s senior management on the project – who am I going to send? One of the IT folks that only see part of the picture? Or this incredibly bright young woman?

I’m sending her – and telling the IT folks to hide in the next room over.

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Why? Because no senior leader is going to ask her how the damn thing works – they’re going to ask her what it does and how it contributes to the bottom line. The same thing that tech reporters talk about in their columns.

As Frederic said over at the Last Podcast:

But here is why I think this doesn’t make sense: technology isn’t just about code, it’s about users and enabling users (and doesn’t that sound like something Dave would say himself?).

Behind the Veil

Of course, Dave’s post wasn’t really about this issue – it was about going after Mike Arrington and Gabe Rivera without really saying so. Because, after all, he didn’t mention them, so it couldn’t really be about them? Could it?

Or there’s the pompous ass argument

Steve Hodson over at WinExtra had this to say:

As far as Dave is concerned that unless you have taken computer science or have written code you should keep your mouth shut. Screw you Dave – I have taken courses and I have written code and I have never found that either of those two things have had any impact whatsoever on what I write about. Just because someone hasn’t written code doesn’t mean they don’t have valid viewpoints about Web 2.0, social networks or even whether a browser looks and acts like a piece of shit.

Amen Steve.

And in case I didn’t mention it

Although I wound up graduating from Boston College with an undergraduate degree in Finance, I was originally a computer science major. I’ve written code as recently as a week ago (PHP/MySQL) but I remain relatively fluent in a variety of languages. And as a project/program manager at times for clients, it helps me keep the IT troops in line. Plus it helps to be able to speak geek.

View Comments (6)
  • The ability to write code has always been used as a badge of honor or a stick to beat people with. There are two assumptions

    1) People who write code are “better”
    2) People who write code are “worse”

    What do I mean?

    The former are the people who look down on anyone who doesn’t know what they do, or lacks experience, and you get it in every field, from gardening to mountain climbing.

    The latter think coders are socially inept, not creative and are unable to think strategy outside of tech. Also rubbish but the stereotype persists. Again, this also happens in lots of fields, I have heard people say “so-and-so can’t present, he is an *accountant*, he will bore them to death” or “keep marketing away from this”, or “leave this to the grown-ups, stick to moving pixels around”

    Of course *anyone* can code. An entire generation of programmers started with their vic20/c64/spectrum/atari/trs80/etc, programming before they got to their teens. Now more than ever it is easy to pick up. Being able to code means nothing. Nada. Zip. Code is a commodity. Of course there is a world of difference between being able to code and being able to code *well* :)

    I think all these fallacies are born out of insecurity and are a way to shore up the attackers own position.

  • This post has kinda been stewing since I first Dave Winers post yesterday where he first preformed a drive-by character assassination without being man enough to use the real names of those involved (for the record it was about Gabe Rivera and Michael

  • I certainly didn’t say that only programmers should write about technology and I don’t believe it. Maybe that’s why you think I’m so often wrong, because you attribute ideas to me that I don’t agree with. I would I say I was wrong too if I catually believed that. I don’t.

    However there are some stories that *are* technical and if you don’t understand technology there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get it wrong. An example is the Techcrunch piece today about the chief architect at Twitter. If he were an engineer or had asked an engineer about it he could have written a much more fair piece.

    However, I do appreciate the compliment that I’m always real — that’s something I strive for.

  • Also, I didn’t name the people because I didn’t want to make it about the people. I wanted people to focus on the circumstance. If this were a different industry, one you weren’t in the middle of, how would you feel about the incestuous relationships? I wouldn’t like it.

  • I would concur that the techcrunch piece re: twitter’s architecture had some challenges. I certainly wouldn’t write about Ruby issues because I’ve never programmed in it and don’t know enough about it to feel like I could do an accurate story.

    However, friends of mine that do code Ruby argue that it has some scalability challenges – but again, I’m not comfortable enough to outline what those are.


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