space Baylys
Just practicing to pass the Turing test.
Developer for Hire!
addedValues Plugin


What's new


Cornershop Plugin


edutools Root



linguist Plugin



Patches by Group



Sign My Guestbook

User(land) Relations.


What I want from Userland

Dave lectures me on integrity

Contact Address

Search Baylys


Join Now
space space space

What I want from Userland

During the Thanksgiving holiday, 2001 Dave Winer attacked me in a public forum - the Manila Newbies email list - accusing me of being a pirate and of not supporting users of my public domain software. It's my firm practice to not indulge in name calling flame wars, especially on forums controlled by the name caller, so I posted my retraction on my website. The upshot of the dialog that ensued was that Winer suggested it had all been my fault for not stating publicly that I didn't ship Userland software. On the face of it that's a pretty silly expectation. My request for an apology in the forum where the allegations was made was roundly rejected. This is all classic ad hominen attack tactics. It's clear that Dave Winer doesn't like my presence in his forums, but doesn't really have a good reason to throw me out.

This was just the last in a series of attacks from Userland officers, anyone interested can study the email exchanges here .

One email from Winer contained this plea

" I keep wondering what you want from us, we work so hard, we don't make a lot of money David, so if you could optimize things a little, we could do more for you and other people who use our software. "

My gut reaction would have been to snap back with a single word response "Professionalism" . But flame wars off-list don't get anyone anywhere either So I decided to mull over the situation for a while and then treat the plea as an question demanding a well thought out reply. This is that reply.

All Frontier developers I know avoid these situations assiduously. There's been 2 or 3 such clashes between Winer and some hapless developer per year in the five and half years I've been actively involved in the Frontier world. Nearly all the top rank developers from the earlier years of my experience have disappeared, some after public arguments with Winer, but most not. I've actually asked some of them why they moved on and a common theme in the replies is that Dave Winer drives developers out and being a Frontier developer is less and less interesting as the size of the community shrinks.

There's clearly a long standing disconnect between Userland and their developers. So Winers' question above may not be as rhetorical as I and I think other developers believe.

I want what I think of as "professional relationship with Userland". I thought I had a clear understanding of what professional meant, but I've had to think long and hard to be able to articulate it. The Oxford English Dictionary say, among other things, "competent, worthy of a professional" so it looks like they are reduced to circular definitions too. After lots of thought, I decided that the qualities I consider important are impersonal service and competence.

Impersonal service within the domain of the relationship.

The only real relationship I have with Userland is through the subscription contract. I pay US$899 and I expect in return a years updates and support. This doesn't make me a friend of any officer of Userland, but I don't have any expectations along those lines. It does give me the right to protest - respectfully but firmly - if I think that contract is not being honoured.

I expect dialogues with Userland to be impersonal, as my legal rights and obligations are not conditional upon who I am. There's no obligation of respect from either side, though all human transactions are best lubricated with a smidgin of that quality. Respect is a two way street, and it is easier to lose than to gain. I like to think I start every new transaction with a default assumption of mutual respect. If I come to believe that isn't the case for the other party, then why should they expect respect from me.


Comptetence is hard to measure objectively, perhaps it's a consensus measure. Userland is a company offering a product, but also subscription service based on that product. If the design of the product is outstanding and innovative, but the subscription service is unsatisfactory then the overall perception is lack of competence. If more effort is put into the next big thing, whatever it is, than maintenance of the product that people have paid good money to support than that's seen as inappropriate too.

My feeling is that the internal management processes within Userland are flawed and have been for a long time. By processes I mean such mundane topics as how to handle bug reports so that customers perceive the handling to be responsive, impartial and worth the money; how to ensure that the documentation is useful and available; and how to ensure that a clear distinction is made between a person speaking as an officer of Userland and as a private person with strong and contentious opinions.


So here's what I want from you Dave Winer. I want you to act as a professional officer of Userland when dealing with me. Since the only relationship I have with you and Userland is as a paid up subscriber of your server product, I'd like you to keep your opinions of me to yourself, at least in public forums. If you want to debate me, then see if you can tempt me in some non Userland forum.

In a better world, I'd hope for more. I am a skilled developer and I see lots of ways of adding value to Frontier. Were we to work together, we could do great things. But I'll settle for the lesser goal of a professional relationship.