A sense of purpose

Dave Winer, whose pioneering work brought us things like RSS 2.0 and blogs, maintains "Scripting News", where he continues to post frequently. A few days ago, he wrote an extended answer to a question he had been asked after an in-person talk: "What did you hope to accomplish with blogging?"

In part, he had answered, "I wanted to disintermediate journalists. I had learned that the journalism system we had required intermediaries who I felt were not trustworthy. They created the stories based on their own filters, instead of finding out what was actually happening."

But in the post, Winer goes on to say that "this is an illusion. Because my view of what was actually happening was just as wrong as theirs."

Winer uses the post to amend his earlier answer:

"What I really wanted, and knew it, was to arm creative people with tools to communicate with people who wanted to know what they think. I wanted to hear from the software developer what he wanted to accomplish with his software. I knew this was needed because I was having trouble communicating about my own software. I was reduced to the ideas that I could convince reporters to pass on… However, I did not want to forgo what the journalists add. I want to emphasize that point. I just wanted to give them more sources and honestly, some competition from people who know what they're talking about, to encourage them to be better at learning and really listening."

Two things struck me about Winer's post. The first is intent: he enabled blogging and syndication because he wanted something else to happen. Purpose-driven development and use of tools is something we often misunderstand, and not just in publishing.

The second is humility. Winer wrote to amend a single remark at a forum only a small number of people would know about, let alone remember. But he wanted to get the answer right. That's something we'd like journalists covering the current political campaigns to try to do, as well.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.