Know the Code

An Open Letter to Dave Winer…

Dear Mr. Winer,

I hope you won’t mind me being so forward as to write to you. I know that we have never talked before, although I have followed your site for some time and I have especially paid attention to your trip to Boston and your work now at Harvard.

On your site recently, you have talked many times about Creative Commons licenses and integrating them in to Radio weblogs. It is a good thing to see a developer who cares about implementing things to benefit the users of the end product.

To that point though, I’ve discovered something that I find somewhat distressing over at I appreciate the fact that you allow me, someone that doesn’t use Radio, to ping the site. I use the XML feed that you offer in my news reader software to find new sites on a regular basis. But it wasn’t until recent discussions on the use of for populating Blogshares that I took the time to dig through all the pages of the site.

With all of the other documentation provided in your other projects being so well written, I found it interesting that there is NO mention of what the data from can or might be used for. There is no terms, no policy, not even a blurb stating that the data is wide open to the public and can be used for anything under the sun. This is the reality of the matter – anyone can parse the feed that you offer there – but it’s not stated anywhere on the site.

Perhaps this was simply an oversight. I know when I am deep in a project I don’t always see little details like this. However, for the blog novice who is pinging with no understanding of what that ping truly means, what XML or RSS is, and what can be done with the data, I think the time has come to post a disclaimer or additional information of some sort to make them aware.

Mr. Winer, I feel this is your responsibility as a leader in the Internet community, a software developer, and the owner of the site. So, will you do it? At least warn people that their data is up for grabs once they ping your site, and that you have no control over who uses the data or for what purpose once the ping occurs.

I look forward to your response.


By Christine

Christine is an Avenger of Sexiness. Her Superpower is helping Hot Mamas grow their Confidence by rediscovering their Beauty. She lives in the Heights in Houston, Texas, works as a boudoir photographer, and writes about running a Business of Awesome. In her spare time, she loves to knit, especially when she travels. She & her husband Mike have a food blog at Spoon & Knife.

27 replies on “An Open Letter to Dave Winer…”

Uh, I’d place myself in the category that you just described: “However, for the blog novice who is pinging with no understanding of what that ping truly means, what XML or RSS is, and what can be done with the data, I think the time has come to post a disclaimer or additional information of some sort to make them aware.”

If Mr. Winer doesn’t make me aware, can you, please?

one thing about Dave is he does take all this very seriously it is why he is who he is and why he’s accomplished so much so don’t fear girl he’ll be responding if he hasn’t already 🙂

You ping and your site shows up in a file named changes.xml. This file is in XML format, and personally – I think that’s a good thing. It makes it easy for programmers to use the data for a variety of things, or for me to add it to NewzCrawler. It’s open to anyone to use for any purpose. It’s not policed, no on has to ask permission, and it’s all timestamped. used it to list blogs on the site. World of Blogs uses it to show when posts are updated around the globe. uses it to show recently updated blogs. If I was a programmer, I could use it too.

You give up control on this data the minute you ping, and there is no disclaimer information on the site stating that. I think that needs to be addressed and corrected.

I thought that was what peopled wanted. To get “advertising”. To get their “name” known, so that people would stop by their sites. If you don’t want people coming by, or knowing you’re around, than why ping Weblogs?
(*G* Sorry, I just feel like he was doing all of us a great favor, and than it’s abused. 🙁 Like so much on the web. But than, I’ve just got back to my computer, and haven’t read every thing yet, so as usual, I’m opening my mouth and speaking, before I know more of “the story” 🙂

Hi — I read your post, and the comments here, and I’m puzzled. Why would we publish the information if people wouldn’t be allowed to use it? It would be like opening a website and saying people could only read it for certain purposes. That’s the kind of stuff I don’t like. Anyway, changes.xml is a good thing, imho, not something I feel I should have to explain. If you don’t want to be part of it, don’t ping it, or set up a service that works the way you want it to work.

My point wasn’t that *I* don’t want to be a part of it, or use it. My point however is that as a service, a “privacy policy” of some sort is a good thing. People are sharing data with – and it’s obvious from the latest uproar that they don’t get that anyone – ANYONE – can use that data. I understand that, however I think it should be stated on the site for the people that don’t understand that so that they can make an informed decision.

I talked to Mike about this on the phone earlier. He said, “I don’t think that Dave Winer should have to post a disclaimer that says that Blogshares uses their data.” I agreed with him. I don’t think Dave should police it at all. I do think there should be a notice, even something in the FAQs, explaining to users that other people parse the data, and that isn’t responsible for that.

I’m all about sharing information, sharing the love, and I think XML and RSS feeds are the best thing since sliced bread. (Well, that and my TiVo.) I just realized today that a lot of people don’t get it and they don’t know how their pings could eventually be used.

I hate to admit that I’ve never really taken the time to check, but it’s true – is that a statement commonly published on service sites (such as search engines) that you submit your site too (as opposed to those that just crawl the web)? I guess I’ve alwys operated under the assumption (bad, I know) that once I put it out there, it’s out there….

Dave, yes, you are missing something. I don’t care at all. I want to know my address, and I want Blogshares to know it too. Seyed of has been harrassed for two days (if not longer) now by people that are irrate because he parsed the feed of to list blogs for trade at Blogshares. Harrassed to the point of considering taking the project down, primarily because so many people had no idea that the feed at can be parsed for anything anyone wants to use it for.

You get it, and you are right in sharing the data in my opinion. I get it, and I want the data shared. RSS *rocks*. On the other hand, there are a lot of blog novices that don’t get it. They feel violated because other sites use the data from the pings at I feel they deserve a warning – a privacy policy of sorts, educating people on what the data is used for.

I believe the question is, what data are you talking about Christine? Our url’s, the name of our websites, or something more? If I am not mistaken, although I could be wrong, there is nothing more.

A day or two after Blogshares started I asked to be removed. It bothered me that I was not allowed to opt-in. Sayed said it was all in fun.

Yes, but …

Privacy aside, there’s also the matter of plain old good manners. Could you please ask? Is that too much?

That’s my whole point in all of this – when you ping, developers are encouraged to use that data for whatever they want. That’s Dave Winer’s point too. I’m all for that – use it, I don’t care at all. Other people don’t like it – they want to be asked. For those people, I think there should be information of some sort pointing out to them that once you ping, it’s fair game.

Catherine, I believe the data set includes your URL, the name of your website, and the time of your ping. The data itself, in my opinion, can be gathered anywhere. For a lot of us, getting the word out about our blog is a good thing. However, a lot of people are upset that the data was used to populate the sites traded at They feel violated – and while I don’t personally feel that way, I can see their point.

Maybe Radio words differently than or other blogging software, but pinging has always been opt-in for me. Because I ping by hand, I know exactly what information I’m providing – the name of my blog and my URL.

For the LIFE of me I can’t figure out those people are are ticked over at Blogshares. It honestly confuses the heck out of me. Seriously, if you are pinging Weblogs, you are announcing to the world not only that you exist, but that you have new content. Why would someone who wants to remain private ping weblogs EVER?

Me neither, Jody. In fact, I was completely clueless of all that was going on until I read it here on Christine’s site. In all honesty, I’m not even sure how to respond without offending someone.

I just want to point out that I don’t take issue with Seyed using the data for his game. I take issue with using it as an exclusive opt in mechanism. I do think there’s a difference.

On the contrary, Jody. I mean that if I don’t want to be listed I’m told I can’t ping (the other alternative is a public request to be delisted which has lead to multiple instances of those people being trolled and flamed).

In the three or four emails Sayed and I exchanged, it was unclear to me that he understood that some of us had to manually sign up for certain sites. (Jody’s thought on Blogger vs. Radio hit that nail on the head.)I might be wrong BUT it seemed that Sayed was surprised to find out some one had to manually enter info to be listed on a page like Blogdex much less Weblogs.

I use an almost free copy of GoLive 6 thus I must sign up for everything but Blogshares.

I also see it as a matter of utility and enjoyment. Those are the driving factors as to why we shop where we shop. If we truly vote with our dollars when we shop – then how does that apply here?

The impression I got from the uproar wasn’t so much that BlogShares was using data off of to populate and update their database as much as the fact that A) when someone asked to be de-listed they were harrassed by trolls and B) Seyed took the attitude that he didn’t have to offer an opt-out function as he had a right to make use of the data any way he wanted to.

I think part of what some folks may be missing here is that a lot of people don’t understand why they have to give up pinging simply because they don’t want their blogs associated with a completely different project such as BlogShares.

Alot of the uproar probably could have been avoided had Seyed offered a simple method to opt-out and not taken such a poor attitude toward the people that wanted to be de-listed while insisting he was “being a nice guy” about it.

I don’t remember giving a single person a hard time for delisting.

The opt-out mechanism was offered early on to those who asked without any hasslement. The limitation of not pinging was stated clearly as a temporary measure due to a known design flaw. It was rectified as promised well before the site has launched.

My initial usage of was not wrong and I stand by that. There was no intention to violate anyones rights. Ask the first person who asked to be delisted ( I never gave her trouble and apologised to her profusely for any hassle it caused her whilst she waited to be delisted. I’ve apologised to every subsequent person whose complained about this and 99% have been understanding.

I may have been insensitive in one or perhaps more remarks but at least judge me by my actions as well as my particular words. When you’re trying to keep 5000+ people happy occasionally you choose your words wrongly. I apologise publicly if my words have caused offence or upset to anybody.

Before I wrote this post, I read comments on at least two or three sites stating that what Seyed did by parsing the data was wrong. I knew it wasn’t due to the fact that anyone can parse the feed and use it for any purpose, but also noticed that there is no disclaimer to that point on the site.

One person stated that only blog update monitors (like Blogrolling) are allowed to use the feeds. I decided to address this directly with the source – Dave Winer – rather than do battle with someone else over it. Seems I was right, as Dave Winer has since confirmed that he actively encourages people to develop any application they can using the data flow.

Parallel universes and more Blogshares pondering
Blogshares pingorama, and owning a piece of Davezilla’s ass. Secretly it’s all Faith’s fault. (Anyway, it’s more fun to say that it is.)

Parallel universes and more Blogshares pondering
Blogshares pingorama, and owning a piece of Davezilla’s ass. Secretly it’s all Faith’s fault. (Anyway, it’s more fun to say that it is.)

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