Where Do We Go From Here?
If you build it, they will come?

Throughout March and the first ten days of April, Dave Winer was developing MyWord Editor, and announcing improvements on a nearly daily basis. As a writer, I found it to be a wonderful platform for producing gorgeous blog postings. On 30 March 2015, I compiled a timeline of those developments, which I have continued to update until today. While posting articles using Dave's servers, I was hoping that I would one day be able to move my blog to a blogging platform using MWE.

From the beginning, Dave made it clear that he was developing software to empower writers to be able to blog in silo-free environments, but he wasn't planning on providing a hosting service for such blogs, except for a short period (maybe six months?) during the development process. Understandable; he is an expert software developer, why should he become a hosting website administrator too?

If you read through my timeline, you will see there have been a number of times when Dave asked for help and got it from other software developers. He made it possible for others to design and use their own templates, he explored the possibility of allowing plug-in editors and asked for feedback about what might be the best JavaScript editors. He even wrote an example of a possible home page.

But on the two support mail lists (server-snacks and myword-editor) I did not see a lot of people posting examples of their own ideas. On 11 April 2015 Dave wrote that he viewed his efforts as a starting point. "Maybe we can work together on this? I'd like to find a way to get other minds working here . . . I'm looking for a discussion, sharing of ideas, and example code." At least publicly, in the support mail lists, there was silence, until today, when Dave posted what he called an ad for MyWord Editor, appealing "for the people who own Medium to not try to turn blogging into another silo."

Time For an Assessment of Where We Stand

The software is excellent and could be used for blogging as it stands. It is lacking only two features that I would like to see implemented: tags and search. It seems to me that it is very close to being a finished product, on a par with others out there, and better in terms of ease of use, with attractive professional-looking results.

For non-technical folks like me, there is only one catch. The software needs to be installed on one's own VPS to be able to blog with one's own domain names. This adds a steep learning curve for those of us who have never attempted such a thing. I want an easy way to write and publish, which is what Dave Winer wants to facilitate with his software. But there is no getting around the fact that servers must be configured to make this happen. There are some instructions at the GitHub site to help with that, and maybe I will try it out one day. But I am sure there are many other writers who are less computer literate than I am who would never try it out.

When WordPress was developed, they offered two paths to potential users. Host the free software on your own server, getting the software from WordPress.org or pay to host your blog at WordPress.com where the software was already installed and maintained. In recent years, Ghost has taken this same two-pronged approach. These are both open source solutions. No silos there. But as Dave wrote on 28 March 2015, silo-free is not enough. He doesn't want to create a WordPress or Ghost clone. He wants to offer the best possible tools to bloggers, things that have not yet even been seen!

But does Dave Winer have to do everything??

To try out great new blogging tools, people have to be using the ones that are already developed. And not just computer pros who don't bat an eye at setting up their own server. Both WordPress and Ghost apparently offer one-click installs of their software on some servers. I might consider taking that approach with Ghost. But I'd rather have the option of doing it with MyWord Editor, in hopes of also using the even better blogging tools that will come along in the future.

It seems to me that it is not technical expertise that is lacking. It is a community of people working together to create a new blogging environment that is lacking. Perhaps some folks would configure a server with the software and offer blogsites to the less computer literate writers. Perhaps some would set up a hosting site and offer it to users for a fee. This will only grow if there are long-term solutions available for hosting to people at all levels of computer literacy.

The most important thing is to make it easy for people's voices to be heard. Any voices who have made it onto the Internet, not just the most technically expert people, but anyone with good or interesting ideas; people who want to be heard on their own terms, not just according to the terms of those people who run the silos.

It's easy to give up and take the freeway that has already been built. Write an article and put it on Facebook. Let them use it to sell ads and make money. Point to it from Twitter and let them sell ads around it too. I'm a little older than Dave Winer. When I finished college, we were going to create a much better world than the one our parents had produced. Is this Silicon Valley rush to become billionaires that New World? It's not the one I envisioned! When I started using the Internet, trying to make money with it was expressly forbidden. It seems like the role models for young people today are the ones who made a fortune with the Internet.

In my research, I found that I could do a one-click install of Ghost at DigitalOcean and have them host it for $5 per month. Maybe I will do that. But if I saw a community beginning to develop around MWE, I'd probably stick around to see where that might take us. I have nothing to offer in the way of programming skills, but if someone were to mentor me on how to get an MWE server up and running, I would certainly consider then hosting MWE blogsites for free to five to ten writers who would otherwise never get their own server going. And maybe that would inspire someone else to do the same the thing. Maybe a network of MWE servers would begin to proliferate, while Dave continued to invent brilliant new blogging tools they could all use.

Are there ways in which you would be willing to contribute to such a community?

If so, tell us about it in a message on one of the support mail lists. Or post an article somewhere and point to it from the support lists or with Twitter, mentioning @W6AZ, so I hear about it. If I get useful feedback, I will write about it in another article, similar to the one I wrote on the MyWord Editor Milestones.


Use Twitter mentioning @W6AZ, or why not write a response on your own blog & link to it from your Tweet?
Text & banner image :copyright: 2014-15 by Ron Chester.
24 April 2015