Mark Pilgrim’s Winer Watcher

Dave Winer is still throwing a fit over Mark Pilgrim’s Winer Watch and threatening to again essentially stop writing Scripting.Com if Pilgrim does not stop his script.

It’s not publicly available anymore, but for awhile you could go to and see Pilgrim’s automated system which tracked edits that Winer made to Scripting.Com. I thought it was a pretty clever RSS hack, but Winer did not. Winer initially complained about all of the bandwidth being used since Winer Watch was polling his RSS feed very 5 minutes. Pilgrim responded that he was using a set of distributed mirrors from people who were already checking Scripting.Com’s RSS feed once an hour anyway, so the system would have no impact on Scripting.Com’s bandwidth.

Now Winer has fallen back on the claim that tracking and posting edits he makes to his website is unethical and the equivalent of extremely rude and likely illegal behavior in the real world,

. . . I guess it’s time for weblogs to become like television. Polished and politically correct. Impersonal. Commercial. That’s what they’re really saying. When there’s no room to change your mind, there’s no way to take a chance. That’s about it. They found a way to stop me from taking chances.

. . .

When I was a kid, the NYC subway had an emergency brake in every car. It was an amazing thing. Any person on the train could at any time cause the whole train to stop. The amazing thing is that in all the subway riding I did (every weekday for three years when I was in high school) no one ever pulled the cord. Even in New York City, which is known for people doing really rude stuff. From that I concluded that humanity works, most people are honest, they know that anyone could pull the cord, so what’s the point of doing it. That’s how it should work here. It’s no trick to write a script that reads my RSS feed every five minutes and posts the diffs in reverse chronologic order. That’s what we’re dealing with here, the kind of people who would pull the cord. They did. The train stopped. Now what? You decide. If the service continues, Scripting News will just be links to articles. If it stops, I’ll keep writing.

Some, such as Aaron Hockley, agree with Winer,

Scripting News is one man’s thoughts. John Kenneth Galbraith once said that “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” I find it more interesting and a sign of a more critical thinker to alter one’s thoughts and comments. By allowing his positions, opinions, and comments to flex as time progresses, Dave is more true to himself and more open to the influences of others.

The problem, of course, is that Winer is involved in many public debates (which always seem to devolve into flame wars) and in that context Winer’s constant editing is infuriating to many of those involved. Many months ago, for example, Winer posted a rather mild insult directed to me on Scripting.Com. I never actually saw it, though, because he later went back and erased it. But several people who were subscribed to his RSS feed e-mailed me about it.

Now I could care less, but suppose I had written a blog entry linking to his post and then it suddenly disappears or is completely rewritten to be more innocuous. That’s the sort of concern that motivated Pilgrim’s Winer Watcher.

Winer’s position, on the other hand, seems to be that he should not be held responsible for what he posts in a public forum if he later decides that he’s changed his mind and wants to rewrite or simply delete his comments. So if Winer makes some rude comment and goes back later and edits it out, we should all just pretend that he never actually posted it.

This is the sort of explanation I expect (and occasionally receive) from my 6 year old daughter to justify her moments of less than stellar behavior. By the time she is an adult, I would hope she has understood that the things she does and says have consequences and that part of maturing is being accepting responsibility for your words and deeds.

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