I came to a blog by Brian St. Pierre, who, in a piece called Hacking the Law, suggests that as many or most of us on the Internet are also copyright owners, the Berman Coble bill could be taken advantage of by all of us. Dave Winer picks up the thread in Scripting News today: “I wonder if anyone at the RIAA has a copy of Scripting News on their hard drive? Hmmm. If the law passes, I could write a virus to find out. Of course it would have to look at all their computers to be sure we didn’t miss any.”
has published an interesting DaveNet today, “Is it marketing or journalism?” Of course this question has been central to journalism for years, going back at least to the days of Hearst and Pulitzer’s yellow journalism. But though the question seems to have been sleeping for a while, it has definitely revived in the past couple of years.
As far as I’m concerned, Winer is pretty directly taking on the Telecom Reform Act in a piece like that. At least that’s my interpretation. By concentrating ownership of the media, the Act led directly (though it wasn’t the only thing that led us here) to the point where there is a lack of competition in the marketplace: competition that would (and traditionally did) keep journalists honest. Think of baseball. The owners always scream about keeping free agent salaries down, about controlling their environment. But with 30 teams, someone (usually Steinbrenner, it seems) always defects and refuses to toe the line and signs the big contract. That competition no longer exists in journalism. There aren’t very many players left (at the money end of things), so it’s less likely that someone will defect from current practice (i.e., not questioning the boss or money) and thus in effect keep them all honest.
Again, with feeling: the CDA was a smokescreen! It was the rest of the 1996 Telecom Reform Act that was really offensive. It vacated accountability in the media through the removal of competition. The effect this has had (with other influences) is undeniable.
: Are tables really evil? Well, no they’re not. But they were never intended to be used to format web pages, and so now that there’s a better solution (CSS), they should no longer be used that way. Tables are still completely viable in HTML – but for displaying tabular data.
Why? Why, really, should anyone change? The best answer is this: for the same reason Userland developed Radio. Radio solves (as do other systems) a big problem: separating content from style. Trouble is, there are three variables, not just two.
Content – we know about that. Style – we know about that too. But there’s also structure to consider. Using CSS allows us to separate structure from style. This is as powerful, in its own way, as separating content from style, and just as important.
By using CSS to format my pages (though I do have one table still kicking around, unfortunately), I get to present items that any device can understand. If some bit of text is a very important heading on the page, I don’t obscure the fact by coding it with font tags and hiding it in a table that’s purely there to place it in a prominent position on the page. I call it what it is: h1. Simple, clean.
Most importantly, though, suddenly it no longer matters what device is trying to “display” or render my page. Anything at all will see that and display that bit of text as the most important thing on that page.
Why is that important? Well, because as Dave Winer says, the web should be a great writing environment – which implies that it should equally be a great reading environment. When I’m writing, I’m only concerned about me – my ability to write well and have it appear. To make it a great reading environment – and thus support the other side of the coin – I can’t just care about me, I have to care about everyone else as well. And the fewer assumptions I make about them the better. Who am I to insist that they use a certain device to look at my page? They read, their choice. Why should I make them track down an alternate version which may or may not work on their particular device?
If you want the web to be a great writing environment, you also want it to be a great reading environment. And that means using CSS to provide the style, HTML (or XHTML) deployed in templates to provide the structure, and a CMS to feed the content. It’s quite simple, actually.
My quirky translation: These are tragic, frustrating times. It’s also an opportunity to do right by our neighbours – all of our neighbours. The stakes? As I wrote elsewhere:
History will judge the perpetrators of this, as will (likely)
military or other action judge them. What has happened is horrific, and deeply
sad. And without justification in any way.
But history will also judge us all, as individuals and collectively,
in our reactions. If we start painting all arabs or muslims with the
terrorist brush – we will, and should, be judged harshly for that. If
we let mindless aggression get the better of us, whether in our
governments or as individuals – we will, and should, be judged
harshly for that.
: Notes from the O’Reilly P2P Conference. Interesting stuff. P2P is very interesting, and the trick for me is that it seems that the flexibility of the very idea is built in. In many ways it’s just restating the original vision of the web, which has ended up being hampered by the narrower vision of the first couple of waves of development. I would hate to see a proscriptive definition of P2P overtake the openness of the concept.