Dave Winer incurred the predictable wrath of many Internet mavens when he discontinued the free hosting that he provided at Weblogs.com. I’m sure that much of the animosity stems from other things. So I liked Doc Searls’ balanced comments that
“Thousands of us got a free ride from Dave, and Userland, over the past five years. What we got was far more than we didn’t pay for. For many of us (certainly for me), the benefits have been incalculable.”
(underlining mine, and not Doc Searls)
Yes, it’s important to remember that Winer provided this service for free. Still, the fact remains that Winer did pull the plug on the free weblogs rather quickly. Why did he do that? He explains that people don’t understand the problem of giving notice to the people who use Weblogs.com for their site-hosting:
The second wrong meme is that I should have or could have given more notice. Putting a note on Scripting News wouldn’t have been notice. I’ve tried to communicate with free-hosting users through this site many times. It doesn’t work. Most of them don’t read it.
His statement that “Putting a note on Scripting News wouldn’t have been notice” is laughably ludicruous. Well, actually, it would be funny if it hadn’t come from a cyber-pioneer who constantly glorifies the extraordinary communicative power of the Internet. Here’s the obvious truth that hardly needs to be publicized: If Winer had published a notice on his Scripting New site others would have repeated the message and 95% of the people whose weblogs were to be affected by the ‘outage’ (as he puts it) would have had “notice.” But let’s say only 5% would have gotten notice. Given the ease of publishing the notice, what’s the harm in trying?
The problem of giving notice comes up all the time in the legal profession. In the old days sufficient legal notice was given if you posted the communique on the local courthouse steps. These days the requirements for legal notice vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But let’s forget the legal requirements; if you want to give effective notice to people who are web-savvy the practical solution is obvious. To everyone, apparently, except for Dave Winer.