Friday, August 10, 2007

Dave Winer vs. Jason Calacanis: Who ya Got?

Disclosure: I have met Jason, he recently bought me brunch and maybe as much as 10 years ago he ranked me in the Silicon Alley Reporter as one of the 100 most influential new media people in NY. All of his antics are not my cup of tea, but generally speaking I find him to be very engaging as well as entertaining. I did join the Facebook group “People who can’t help but love Jason Calacanis!”

I have never met Dave Winer, but since I already "pushed" in one "who ya got?" today, I got Dave Winer. RSS baby. Way more important than a free brunch, or being ranked as influential – and even more important than interesting and engaging conversation. I love, love RSS. I might even change my middle name so that my initials can be RSS. Really Simple Syndication is good, good stuff.

I probably agree with Dave that Jason is hypocritical for whining about spam and then shamelessly self promoting constantly. But one of my favorite quotes is Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. I’m not immune from that myself, neither is Jason, and neither probably is Dave “if I can’t profit from it why should I care?” Winer.

I understand the thinking, and I’m all for self-interest, but that seems over the top. Dave doesn’t care about Mahalo because he can’t develop for it, and that’s fine, but other than that they utilize RSS, the New York Times web site isn’t an “open platform”, but it’s still something that millions of people love to use.

Bottom line on Mahalo is if it can become very useful – more useful than other generic search then people will use it and not give a rat’s behind whether it’s a platform or not.

Still, I have to pick Dave even if he complains about the iPhone for the same reason he complains about Calacanis’ Mahalo. The iPhone isn’t a platform so Dave can’t figure out how to develop something that will make money on it. Oh freaking well. I say that because no “platform” came out of the blue to give us an iPhone. Could Apple have made the iPhone more of an open platform? I’m not really so sure.

I’m OK if Jason and his investors are the only ones who will make money off Mahalo if the service it provides is useful to the people who use it. As for the iPhone, it might be more useful if it were an open platform, but I am finding the first generation of the phone very, very useful, even with its flaws. If the mobile phone industry here in the USA itself was an open platform, I’d probably be more prone to siding with Dave. That the mobile phones here aren’t built around some open platform that allows you to switch your phone to another carrier, etc., is a big deal to me. That Dave can’t make money off the iPhone or Mahalo is not. But it was fun to think about for 10 minutes.

There’s lots of stuff I use every day that’s not a platform. It doesn’t matter if it’s technology or not. Comcast or Starbucks. I still give them my money. Am I supposed to boycott Comcast because Dave Winer and Fred Wilson haven’t figured out how to develop an application for Comcast they can make money off of?

The ironic thing to me here is this: the non-platform iPhone + (Bloglines feed reader for the iPhone) is the best RSS feed reading mechanism EVER (so far). I am able to absorb much, much more information more quickly than I ever have before. Hell, it’s SO easy and so fast, I want to get everything via RSS, even my freaking e-mail.

Still, I’m a massive hypocrite myself here, because when the Flash upgrade for the iPhone is released, if it blocks streaming in the same way that Sony’s PSP did, I will send Dave some flowers and ask him how I can assist in the quest to turn the iPhone into a platform. But hands down, it’s already the best portable media device I’ve ever used, plus the best feed reader I've ever used. That's pretty good for a generation 1 product.

I personally don’t care whether Mahalo is a platform or not and I’m sure I’ll never change my mind about that. As for the iPhone, I’ll let you know after the update that supports Flash finally comes out (I’m guessing in October).

Dave Winer’s contributions to the Internet are many, and significant though and not just RSS. It’s just that RSS significantly changed the way I access information. So even though I think “if I can’t make money off it, I just don’t care” seems a bit over-the-top to me, I got Dave Winer.

P.S. the conference where the Jason vs. Dave smack talk occured, Gnomedex was not a "software developers" conference, if it was, Dave's comments would've been completely reasonable. Since it wasn't, his comments seemed over-the-top to me.

P.P.S. Jason's English Bulldog, Toro is an amazing chick magnet -- if Jason let me borrow him for a few hours the next time he is in SF, I might swing over to Jason's side in this contest...

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