Monday, July 05, 2004

David Winer and his blog

So many have, IMHO, unfairly attacked this man for closing down his free blog hosting service. I understand how this could have happened.

When a "good idea at the time" and "I can do it if others can't" project gets going, it often takes on a life of its own.

And sometimes real life gets in the way.

I know, in 1995 I set up AOL's legal discussions, where hundreds of lawyers would answer legal questions and provide legal information about almost any legal issue, for free.

It had all started when I started using AOL (I have told you all I am not a technology expert :-)) in 1994 and people kept asking me a/s/l in chats.

Instead, since I was looking for conversations and networking instead of cybercrimance, I would steer the conversations to what do you do and how can we help each other. After the word spread that a lawyer was hanging out in channel answering business law questions, the channel's popularity grew quickly. Since I had always been a corporate lawyer, I needed other lawyers to answer all the lease, divroce and traffic ticket questions, among others. Friends and acquaintances agreed ot help and Legal Discussions was born, with hundreds of different discussion topics. Court TV Law Center followed, when Steve Brill asked me to replicate what I had done with AOL.

All of us donated our time. In some cases it helped lawyers find clients, but in most it only created headaches with our malpractice carriers and legal ethics boards that were uncomfortable with lawyers providing answers to legal questions online and providing them to residents of other states. (Lawyers are licensed state-by-state).

I became a well-known early adopter and cyberlaw expert. But the two projects took up so much time that I couldn't take advantage of the new fame.

I suspect that the blog service was something Winer did when others weren't. Now with and the new race to set up the next free and easy blogging service, it isn't as important as it once was. And creating a business out of this was not what Winer had in mind.

While he could and should have given everyone a bit more advance notice, no one should fault him for wanting to live his life and get on with projects that he wants to pursue.

Sometimes volunteers online can get something going, but at some point either others need to take it over, the creator changes their life to focus entirely on this volunteer project and find ways to supporting themselves and the project or it ends.

It's hard to move on. Stop-gaps should be just that.

We should thank Winer for having donated so much for so long.


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