Sunday, June 14, 2015

OSS WLW and quitter bloggers

As blogging is dying, those of us who still cling to this habit are occasionally baited by news we'd like to think will come true, only to be proven otherwise. One such news items suggests that Microsoft might release the source code of Windows Live Writer or WLW.

why-bloggersThe initial enthusiasm over the possible release of WLW’s source code proved premature (at-wlwoss).

(..) user base became a lot more vocal when the ability to post to Google's Blogger platform from Live Writer stopped working late last month. Blogger changed something, probably with its authentication process, and Live Writer could no longer post to the platform.

While that issue has since been resolved, it highlighted for many the problem with using software that isn't actively maintained, particularly when that software depends on online services. When those services change, for example to remove old API versions or insecure authentication systems, the software is liable to break.

At the time of the Blogger issue, Microsoft's Scott Hanselman said that the software "may" be released as open source. Hanselman has long championed the cause of releasing the code to Live Writer, and today he confirmed that this will in fact happen.

There's no timeline on when it will happen, with Hanselman previously suggesting that the timeline would be months rather than days, but the news is sure to be welcomed by Live Writer's fans.

Update: We've heard that while internal moves are afoot to open Live Writer, the process is not as complete as Hanselman's tweet led us to believe, and there's still a chance that this might not happen.

This is the second time this year Ars Technica publishes what may seem like credible rumours about Microsoft and Open Source.

Back in April, they were quoting Russinovich’s wishful thinking as well.

Microsoft releasing Windows as open source isn't impossible, the audience at the ChefConf conference heard on Wednesday. Mark Russinovich, Microsoft technical fellow and Azure CTO, was part of a panel discussion that asked, "Have your bets on Open paid off?"

For the longest time, Microsoft has been seen as an enemy of all things open, with former CEO Steve Ballmer famously describing Linux as a "cancer" in a 2001 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. But attitudes and opinions have shifted in the intervening years. As Russinovich told the audience, almost all companies these days depend on at least some open source software, and that includes Microsoft customers. This has forced the company to warm to, and support, open source software—witness the proclamation by CEO Satya Nadella last October that "Microsoft loves Linux."

Supporting open source software is valuable, but more profound, and more important, is the adoption of open source ideals. Developers, in particular, have come to expect openness in development. This influence has seen Microsoft do things that once might have been considered unthinkable; after early pioneering efforts, such as the open sourcing of the ASP.NET framework, the company has open sourced large parts of the .NET Framework and participated in open hardware projects.

Russinovich describes the decision to make .NET open as a way of increasing interest in and usage of Microsoft's paid software. Open .NET is "an enabling technology that can get people started on other Microsoft solutions," he told the conference, continuing "It lifts them up and makes them available for our other offerings, where otherwise they might not be."

It's against that backdrop that Russinovich claimed that it was "definitely possible" that Microsoft would, one day, open source Windows, saying that "Every conversation you can imagine about what should we do with our software—open versus not-open versus services—has happened."

Releasing Windows as open source would be no small achievement. The Windows source isn't neatly packaged for easy downloading and compiling. "If you open source something but it comes with a build system that takes rocket scientists and three months to set up, what's the point?" Russinovich asked rhetorically.

So WLW will probably not be open sourced any time soon, and neither will Windows.

when bloggers began to realize they had power and started demanding money for brand placements—known as sponsored posts—blogging agencies debuted. Back in 2010, the idea that bloggers might need agents seemed preposterous, but the industry was changing at lightning speed: bloggers suddenly had influence, brands were desperate to harness it, middlemen were (apparently) needed to intervene.

I signed with Digital Brand Architects, a New York-based agency who now manages some of the most influential, visible style bloggers in the world, but who at the time had a mom-and-pop feel. I was one of the original clients, and soon was commanding several thousand dollars per sponsored post, thanks to DBA’s steady guidance. I had no idea how much I should be charging, and DBA stepped in, ready to chart the choppy negotiation waters.

The money was excellent. Who among us would say no to thousands of dollars for writing about a makeup item you’d write about for free? The problem came later: when the gigs started rolling in for brands I didn’t like. For brands I wouldn’t write about for free. For brands my readers, quite frankly, didn’t give a damn about. (..)

It was a subtle, slow evolution, but looking back on it, it feels like I went from being a full-time blogger to a full-time shiller. While blogging was initially a hobby, once the money began to pour in, it was hard to turn away from. I fought to provide quality content, but little by little found myself turning my back on the personal, no-BS posts that made my name, instead focusing on paid content, building my brand, and trying to achieve those magical social media numbers. After all, more numbers meant more money, as this recent Harper’s Bazaar piece about Instagram sponsored posts bluntly explains. (..)

When I finally relaunched my blog, I made the big decision to remove the ads. If I’d still been making thousands of dollars a month, it would have been a much harder call: I’ll be the first one to admit that. But I wasn’t making thousands of dollars a month anymore: I was making less and less money blogging, had those damn stagnant social media numbers, and stopped going to beauty events and having energy to play the game altogether while I instead focused on my flourishing personal life. I started making noises on Facebook about the evils of sponsored posts, and the need to connect with readers instead of please brands. I let it be known, loudly, that things needed to change.

And then a couple weeks ago: the nail in the coffin. Fired. A chapter closed.

I wasn’t surprised when my agent let me go. It was a pleasant, amicable conversation about the state of the industry, the requirements for high social media numbers, and brands’ need for ROI—and I get it. If I were on the brand side, with bosses and spreadsheets to answer to, I’d probably make the same call.`

“Blogging agent?” You bet.

And yet the nail in the coffin comes from a niche you might not expect: faith blogging (ct-bcq).

Back in the early days of blogging stood two very different writers: Andrew Sullivan, a journalist who helped to shape the genre as a vehicle for social commentary and analysis, and Heather Armstrong (aka “Dooce”), one of the original “mommy bloggers,” known for her humorous takes on home and family. She used her popular blog as a platform for advertising and for consumer protest, made even more famous by a certain dispute with Maytag about a washing machine.

Sullivan pioneered a new form of journalism that drew in tens of thousands of subscribers. Armstrong helped launch a whole subculture of women bloggers, herself making millions and amassing 1.5 million Twitter followers. Both helped define the genre and exemplify its breadth and potential.

And both have called it quits within the past few months. In addition to these departures from the blogosphere come celebrities who have publicly renounced their online presence on platforms like Twitter, including comedian Louis C. K. and director Joss Whedon. (..)

Armstrong explains how even blogging has become eclipsed in the digital landscape: “Everything has been reduced to a small square on a phone,” she wrote. “Attention spans are now 140 characters long, sometimes as short as a video or a picture that self-destructs in a few seconds.” Whedon likened his behavior on Twitter to that of an addict. Sullivan provides a series of posts to explain his decision to leave, which can perhaps be summed up when he writes:

I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger … I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I never ascended the blogging ranks like Sullivan or Armstrong, and yet I too recently decided to complete my time as a regular blogger here at Christianity Today to pursue writing of a different sort. Like Sullivan, I yearn to slow down. Instead of creating post after post, I want to focus on writing that allows me more time and thought. Blogging itself—its immediacy, its informality, its conversational tone—is fleeting. There’s always an occasion for another update, another issue to comment on.

With such a transient, “what next?” mindset, bloggers and tweeters may experience what media theorist Douglas Rushkoff calls “present shock.” In his book of the same name, Rushkoff explains, “Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. It’s not a mere speeding up… It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now—and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is.” Our focus upon the present leads to “narrative collapse,” the end of storytelling, the end of understanding our place in the world as something with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Perhaps writers like Andrew Sullivan—and storytellers like Louis C. K. and Joss Whedon—are responding to the tyranny of the present when they refuse to remain beholden to the constant information cycle of blogging and tweeting and posting photos online. Perhaps they refuse to believe in the inevitability of narrative collapse.

Should Microsoft open source its still popular products, before they plunge into the inevitable obsolescence? Is blogging really dying?

Sources / More info: ct-bcq, at-wlwoss, at-osw, y-dtabb

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